For Papa Gora, everything comes down to timing. The Cincinnati native has been working hard the past few years to emerge as a rising star in the city’s hip hop scene and released his latest album, The Feel (An Album by Papa Gora), earlier this year. The project was initially meant to drop in 2020 – a year that seemed bleak for many local artists. However, Papa Gora decided to delay the album, which ended up bringing on a host of new opportunities, remote performances and organic collaborations.
“Everything with this album was based on a feeling; I wanted to make sure that I expressed myself so people could feel something from the music,” he tells Audiofemme. “This one started with production – the beats. The intro song [‘The Best’] was the first beat that I got, and from there, more producers were sending me different sounds.”
“Nothing was forced, it came about really naturally,” he adds. The feelings he wanted to capture shine through on every track on the album – from the spiritual highs of “Testify” to the raw emotion on “Violence,” which features Cincinnati rapper Jay Hill.
“I had ‘Violence’ sitting there and was like, who can bring that emotion in? Jay Hill,” he says. “Shalom, same experience. He’s more of a poet and he was transitioning into songwriting at that time, and we ended up making ‘Divine Timing’ maybe in 20, 25 minutes. And also Harmony [Haze], her vocals are just amazing. I needed that texture to add an extra layer to that song, [‘Truth Will Set You Free’], and she did amazing.”
Papa Gora’s visceral vocals also stand out on “Too Wild,” which, like “Violence,” speaks vulnerably about police brutality, systemic racism and loss.
“I can’t say there was a particular thing that triggered those songs, but they came from a soulful place; a place of this keeps happening,” Papa Gora says. “Even before 2020, stuff like police brutality, violence, people getting murdered… I actually had a coworker whose son got killed, and I’m not saying she was the reason I wrote the song, but it is something that constantly happens and myself, as an artist, I feel like I have a responsibility to speak out about it.”
Papa Gora also recently wrapped up a remote performance series called “Live-N-Direct,” for which he was able to virtually perform several of the album’s solo tracks as well as collaborations.
“It was awesome. I honestly did it because I miss performing,” he said about the series. “I miss that, and it’s not the same as performing in front of people, but performing in general is just my favorite thing to do. And I was able to include Shalom and Jay Hill on the performances, and we did the season finale at a clothing store in Cincinnati. It was a great experience and it came about naturally.”
Later this month, Papa Gora will head to Texas for a string of live shows. He’s also performing at the Thompson House in Newport, Kentucky on May 28. Currently, he is putting the finishing touches on a new music video for album cut “Open Your Heart,” which is slated for release at the end of this month.
“I always say the album is done, but it’s not finished,” he reflects. “I’m really big on visuals and I feel like I need to take my time and push out visuals for almost every song on this album. That’s one thing I’m really focusing on right now, but my studio is also in my house, so I’m always creating.”
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